Saturday, November 16, 2019

Newest Exhibit Opens at the History Center Sunday Afternoon November 17, 2019

Lawrence County was settled by farmers and our history is deep in agriculture and rural life.  The generation who worked the soil behind a horse, the families that butchered their own hogs, and the days of pumping water by hand may have disappeared, but the memories and photographs still exist.

Sunday afternoon November 17, 2019, at 1:00 pm the Lawrence County Historical Society's newest exhibit will open at the History Center on the northwest corner of the  Lawrenceville Square.  Named Growing Aware, the spotlight will be on Lawrence County farmers. From the tools farmers would have used in the barns and fields to artifacts that women would have used in their kitchens and lives, all will be on exhibit. The local men and women who used these items have been identified in most cases.

The main focus of the exhibit is the story of the farming.  As time changed so did the power necessary to plant and harvest the crops. Many photographs showing horse-drawn equipment used in the county have been enlarged and mounted.  Another exhibit shown will be a special tribute to the contributions made by farm families during World War II.

Farm Bureau did much to improve the lives of farmers and their families.  Since the Lawrence County Farm Bureau is celebrating their 100th anniversary, an exhibit has been created showing major contributions made by that organization.  Because legislation affects farmers, the Dunseth Presidential Doll Collection with agricultural quotes made by several of the presidents adds interest to the over-all exhibit.

The important role farm wives played has not been ignored.  Cooking, canning,and preparing clothes are among some of the activities featured in the exhibit.  Several of the Society's autograph quilts will be on display.

To complement the exhibit, the newest publication, Growing Aware, Farming in Lawrence County, will be available for the sale.  At the Sunday exhibition opening, the book may be purchased for $20.00.  After Sunday, the retail price for the book will be $25.00.

 This book is a collection of articles and photographs about farming and farm life in Lawrence County through the years.   Now predominately corn and soybeans are raised; once hay, oats, buckwheat, and sorghum were the crops of the day.   Leading the state now in turkey production and state- of- the- art feeder hog production facilities, Lawrence County  raised over 15,000 sheep during the Civil War to provide wool for northern uniforms. Prairies that once grew cotton, now grow green beans and potatoes for chips.  Before artificial Christmas trees, Lukin farmers not only grew the trees but pioneered the white snow-like flocking process. Driving through the countryside, one sees the remnants of osage orange hedge rows, once intentionally planted for escape-proof animal fencing.  Mulberry trees now cause parked-car owners to curse the falling berries but once the mulberry leaves fed hungry silk worms. One of our high schools in the early 1900s, even operated the only student-ran dairy in the downstate. These and many other stories, as well as over 125 vintage photographs and original illustrations by Ellen White are included in this publication. 

In addition to articles about livestock, implements and crops by Donna White Burton, Dan and Holly Scherer have written about Lawrenceville Greenhouses, Janet Akin Faro about Clarence Akin and the Akin Seed Company, John Hamilton about an experience with Piper's bulls, James Allison about memories of his father, Dr. Allison, Barbara Burgoon Gognat about the Burgoon Pony Farm, Larry Curry about African American farmers,Nancy King about the organization of Home Bureau, John King about the history of Farm Bureau,and Flossie Price about FFA and FHA.

Please come to the Exhibit Opening Sunday, November 17 at 1-4 p.m. Share your memories with the volunteers. Buy a book or two to support the Society.  Admission is free; donations are appreciated.

Friday, November 15, 2019

History of Chauncey United Methodist Church

Chauncey United Methodist Church
The Methodist Church in Chauncey was organized at the Munns schoolhouse about 1847. The first church was built in 1858. In April, 1872, Bryce P. Munns and wife, Monia (or Moriah), deeded the plot on which the present church stands for the price of one dollar.

The building erected in the 1800s still stands and has had additional Sunday School rooms added, and modern heat, cooling, plumbing, carpeting, and vinyl siding. Some alterations were made to the windows high in the north and south gables. They are now gone. New seats and pulpit furniture was purchased. In 1963, a beautiful organ was presented by Mrs. Rodrick Forney, and the congregation quickly raised the funds for a new piano as a Christmas gift the same year.

In 1912, the Chauncey Methodist circuit was strong enough to finance a new parsonage. It was built on the south side of W. Main St. in downtown Chauncey. It was  a private home in 1995.

A different congregation, the Methodist Protestants first planned their building for a site just north on the Crawford- Lawrence County line, a mile north of Chauncey. The spot did not satisfy some of the members, and though some of the lumber was on the spot, a lot was purchased in Chauncey and a building completed in 1861. After being paid $250 for 1 acre of land, Christian Loos and Isabel Loos, his wife, deeded it to the Methodist Protestant church trustees, Caleb Maynard, John B. Stout, Jacob Mushrush, Lewis Daniels and James Jennings.  

Photo by J. Hamilton
Chauncey Methodist Church 
Two members of this congregation, George and Daniel Wagner had hauled some of the building material to the first location through a cold rain over poor roads. As a result of the long cold trip Daniel Wagner contracted pneumonia and died. This incident was long remembered and hindered the growth of the struggling congregation, but it survived and was soon referred to as the “West Church” or simply the “M. P.’s.”  

In 1883, the Protestant church was remodeled and the high rectangular building with its double entrance doors and pointed steeple was used until 1939. It was razzed in 1964.   In 1912, the Methodist Protestants purchased the lot just west of their church and started a new parsonage. From the outside, the building looked modern and was for those days, but it had no closets and no plumbing.  The lot where the Church had stood as well as the parsonage was sold in 1970.

In 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Episcopal south, and the Methodist Protestant church healed their differences over slavery, communion, infant baptism and governing procedures and called themselves the Methodist Church. In Chauncey, the decision was made to use the Episcopal building for worship and the Protestant parsonage for the pastor’s home. 

The two congregations had worked together for years on activities and there was scarcely a family in either group who was not related to at least one family in the other church. Some names of early membership were Waggoner, Paddick, Mushrush, Greer, Munns, Brownfield, Keplinger, Mills, Myers, Rodrick, Goodman, Watts, Bach, Haines, Correll, Stout, Parrott, Pauley, Koertge, Eaton, Baltzell, Phillips, Berkshire, Devonshire, Albert, Wilcox, Carlisle, Rosborough and others.

In 1972, the Methodist Church had a membership of 83.

On Sunday, November 17, 2019, the newest Lawrence County Historical Society exhibition at the History Center on the Lawrenceville Square will open at 1:00 p.m.  Mark your calendars. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Beckes Grocery Store, Russellville Part Two

A continuation of the history of Beckes Grocery store in Russellville, Illinois written in  1957.

Items Change
The store today handles work shoes for men and work clothes. The line of women’s and children’s shoes and apparel was discontinued as demands for these items fell off. Bulk items today are in the form of cookies, beans and sugar. This is the only carry-over from the days when all grocery stock was in bulk. 

The trade area of the Beckes store has been reduced with the advent of good roads and automobiles. One handicap was the river to the east. When the ferry was in operation at Russellville, considerable trade came from the Indiana side of the river.  It was in the early ‘40s that the ferry quit running.  Today, the store serves an area 10 miles north of Russellville, south to the Roberson Hills and west seven miles. 

At one time, Beckes had the dealership for John Deere farm implements. 
This operation was discontinued in the depression days.  Facilities included sales and service, with a complete workshop to repair implements.  At one time he unloaded five freight cars of implements at the B & O siding near Lake Lawrence. 

Besides being in business, Beckes found time to be of service to the community.  For several years, he was a member of the Russellville school board. He formerly held the position of town clerk. Another activity was serving as the supervisor from Russell Township with the Lawrence County Board of Supervisors. He discontinued these outside activities and now devotes full time to his business.

The store was in a serious spot during the 1943 flood, but water barely got inside the store before the river started to fall.  The 1950 flood did not bother the store.  Residents have learned that in flood years the most serious threat to Russellville comes when the levee breaks north of town. 
Mr. Beckes is familiar with all of his customers and can call each one by name. He still gets requests for items formerly carried in stock.  Just the other day, one female customer came in to ask for a few yards of bolt goods. (fabric) The request could not be filled, since the line has been discontinued.

A visit to the store shows a bench located near the front entrance.  Mr. Beckes explained that this bench was for the customers.  They can come in, sit on the bench and visit with friends, and then order groceries. The bench is a reminder of the day when checkers were a popular pastime for customers. No checker players hang around the store now, however.  The bench came out of the Christian church. 

A gas field was discovered southwest of town in the 1930’s but it did not bring much change in economics around Russellville, since drilling was too far from the heart of the community. However, when George Field was activated, the air base had a decided effect on the community.  People from Russellville were employed in the construction of the base.  During its operation, several persons were civilian employees at the field.  This had a direct bearing on the sales by the Beckes Grocery. Mr. Beckes contributed to the war effort by furnishing private housing for a young serviceman and his wife.  In turn, the service man made a painting of the Beckes store.  This painting is kept at the front desk. 

“I’ve given thoughts to retiring for the last 10 years, but have never gotten around to it,” revealed the veteran businessman.  “The operation would be conducted differently if I had it to do over,” he concluded. The store is open seven days a week. Brief hours are kept on Sunday so that customers can pick up their copies of the Sunday papers. 

The meat department was operated by Herschel Johnson
who, in 1957, had worked there for 32 years. 
Mrs. Edna Beckes formerly assisted around the store.  However, she curtailed store activities in recent years to devote her time to the household duties. The couple have two children, Mrs. Elma Stevens who lives on a farm three miles northwest of town, and a son, Harold, who operates the 500-acre Beckes farm northwest of town. When Beckes’ son, Harold, was in service during WWII, Mr. and Mrs. Beckes made numerous visits to see their son while he was stationed in the U.S.  Prior to the war years, the family would vacation in winter. When on leave from the store, the business was in the able hands of Hershel Johnson. Johnson is in charge of the meat department and has been an employee for 32 years.

When Beckes started in business a half-century ago, his source of goods was confined to three major suppliers.  Standard Oil was mentioned previously in the article.  E. Bierhouse and Sons of Vincennes and Miller Parrott Baking Company are the other two.  The latter two firms still handle his orders for grocery stock today.

The 71-year old businessman has seen another era pass by the scene during his career.  He formerly carried a complete line of harness and accessories for customers who kept horses for transportation and work animals. The only reminder of the horse and buggy days is a lone horse collar that just never did find a buyer. 

The Beckes grocery is not state or national shrine.  However, the rural general store has played its part in the development of the nation-especially this section of Indiana and Illinois. It is worth a visit to the store to observe one of America’s rural shopping centers.

On Sunday, November 17, 2019, the newest Lawrence County Historical Society exhibition at the History Center on the Lawrenceville Square will open at 1:00 p.m.  Mark your calendars.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Beckes Grocery Store, Russellville Part 1

Vincennes Sun Commercial July 19, 1957
Russellville Business over 50 Years Old

In this modern day of supermarkets, large parking lots   In Russellville, a community of 200 persons, is a rural store that has stood the test of time and hasn’t gone “modern.”
Cheryll and Harold Junior Beckes stamp prices
 on canned goods as their grandfather, D. T. Beckes supervises. 
and suburban shopping centers, it is a refreshing thing to find the rural, general store still in existence.

D.T. Beckes is a veteran businessman of the community who began his career over 50 years ago, in the spring of 1906.  Beckes is “Mr. Russellville” himself.  He was born and raised in this community and chose his home town as the place to launch his career. 

Beckes can point out the changes in merchandising in the half-century that he has operated a grocery.  “The greatest change to evolve,” Beckes remarked, “was refrigeration.  Almost an equal to this is the adoption of “package goods’ over bulk goods,” he added.

The store today still qualifies as a rural general store.  Food is the No 1 requirement. However, hardware, clothing, and some dry goods, a paint line, gasoline and oil are all the classifications sold under one roof.

Early Disaster

It was in 1906 that Beckes bought the stock and building from Frank Calvert and went into business for himself.  Disaster struck the following year. The Calvert building was burned out by fire.  In 1909, the new building was erected on Main Street of Russellville.  It was a two-story affair.  The IOOF Lodge contracted to use the upper floor while the main floor was for the grocery.  The grocery outlived the IOOF Lodge. 

In the early days, the building was located on the old major route of travel between Palestine and Vincennes. In more recent time, the “hard road” was completed through Russellville.  In 1935, the building was moved from its location on Main Street to the present site, one block west of the original spot.  It faces Road 33.  “We never lost a day of business while the building was being moved, although the canned goods got jarred,” Beckes explained.

In those early days the grocery stock was predominately in the bulk.  It was also a period when piece goods, such as gingham and calico, were in demand. It took about 10 yards of calico to make a dress.  An extensive line of dry goods was carried, for men, women and children.  A complete line of hardware was maintained for consumers of the area.  Special consideration was given to the agricultural interests with horse collars, harness and related items.

Another line, handled in the early days, and still kept as a service at the present time was the kerosene, gasoline and lubricating oils.  Gasoline was not a popular item 40 years ago as the car was still in the infant stage.  Coal oil and kerosene were popular as fuel for home lamps.  Gradually gasoline sales picked up.  Early sales were made direct from a storage tank at the warehouse, rather than a familiar pump known today.  Beckes kept up with the motor age by adding regular pumps for service at the drive.  He did not get into the lubrication of autos. However, oil changes were performed for customers. Today, customers get gas from pumps in front of the store.  An elevated ramp permits the raising of a vehicle to change motor oil. Beckes had handled Standard Oil products for over 50 years.  The company recently presented him with a plaque commemorating 50 years as a distributor. 
Beckes Store after 1964

Continued tomorrow

On Sunday, November 17, 2019, the newest Lawrence County Historical Society exhibition at the History Center on the Lawrenceville Square will open at 1:00 p.m.  Mark your calendars.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Chauncey Ruritan Club

Daily Record August 16, 1985

Community service is precisely what the words imply for members of the Chauncey Ruritan Club.  They are a group of willing workers ready to lend a helping hand whenever a need arises in their community. Little known and unpublicized work for their fellowman is a common occurrence for this club.

A few of their “good Samaritan” endeavors during the past year include:
  • ·         Furnishing wood for three disabled families through last winter.
  • ·         Assisting with the roofing of Verb Littlejohn’s home when he was ill in April
  • ·         Re-blacktopping the old Chauncey School basketball court for use by area children.

Every year Chauncey Ruritans donate:        
  • A trophy to Lawrence County 4-H Fair
  • ·         Money to the Chauncey workshop for mentally challenged and physically handicapped citizens
  • ·         Money to Deewood Nursing Center in Sumner at Christmas
  • ·         Money to Deewood Rock-A-Thon for the American Heart Association fun.
  • This year Chauncey Ruritan Club is starting an annual scholarship to Olney Central College.  They are also working toward bringing other are Ruritan Clubs into the Scholarship program.

Special annual events are held by Chauncey Ruritan Club. These include
  • ·         A ham and bean dinner every January
  • ·         Pancakes and sausage meals every March
  • ·         Food stands for area auctions
  • ·         A chowder in August where not only is chowder served but homemade ice cream and pies are also offered.

Chauncey Ruritan officers for 1985-86 are: Earl Thacker, President; Paul Thacker, Vice president; Art Mills, Secretary, Harold Longecker, Treasurer; Clyde Davis, Gene Stoltz, and Erwin Paddick, Board members.

On Sunday, November 17, 2019, the newest Lawrence County Historical Society exhibition at the History Center on the Lawrenceville Square will open at 1:00 p.m.  Mark your calendars.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Isom Childress, Revolutionary War Veteran

Isham/Isom  Childers/Childress was born in Warren County, North Carolina in 1766. During the Revolutionary War,  he enlisted/volunteered as a private for three months in 1779, with Capt Rowland Blanton and Capt Sewel.  He again enlisted for three months with the same officers.   In 1781, he served with Captain William Johnston of the North Carolina Troops.  Records show that in all, he served for 9 months and was owed $30.  He eventually moved to Lawrence County, Illinois, and died here where he was buried in Howard Cemetery in Allison Twp. He was granted a pension and inscribed on the Illinois roll at $50 per year to begin March, 1831.  A certificate for pension was signed on April 11, 1833, and sent to J. McLean, the Lawrence County Clerk, to record.  The pension was based on the following affidavit of Isom Childress.

 State of Illinois

  Lawrence County   (Affidavit) 
On this 17th day of September 1832 formally   appeared in open court before the Circuit Court for the county of Lawrence and State of Illinois now setting.

 Isom Childress of the County of Lawrence aforesaid, aged sixty six years, who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to attain the benefits of the act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832. 

That he entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein stated: that …he volunteered for  the term of three months under Capt—Blantain Col Sewell and Gen Sumner that he marched from Warrenton,  North Carolina to Waxhaw Creek where they was attacked in the evening and retreated to Charlotte in Mecklenburg County where there was a small skirmish.  That part of this time he was with Gen Green. This was about the year 1779 but that he cannot recall certainly the month or year. After this time, he was a resident of Warren County, North Carolina of which he is a native.

That he served another time of three months as a volunteer with Capt. Blantain, Col. Sewel and Gen. Sumner. This he believes was in the year 1780 but that he cannot recollect the month. That he was not with any regular officers. That he still resided at the same place in Warren County, North Carolina.
That he enlisted for another term of three months; he was at Hillsborough and Salisbury in North Carolina and at the Waxhaws in South Carolina. That he volunteered for another term of three months to assist Gen Washington in the siege of Cornwallis. That he had marched till within about half a day’s march from York when they heard the news of the surrender of Cornwallis. That he believes his Capt’s name was Johnston but he can’t recall certainly and that he does not recollect the names of any higher officers.  That he has no record of his age; that he was born in Warren County, North Carolina; that he lived at the same place during all the time of the war; that he has since lived in Rutherford County in Tennessee, that he has since lived in the County of  ?? in the State of Illinois and that he now lives in Lawrence County, Illinois. That he received discharges for such terms one signed by Gen ? the other ones  he  does not recollect by ?? signed and that they have all been lost by time and accidents.

He hereby relinquishes his ?? whatever to a pension or annuity except the present one and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of the agency of any state.
                         Sworn to and subscribed the day and year aforesaid 
                                                                 Isom  (signed by his mark) Childers

Wm Farley, a clergyman residing in the County of Lawrence and State of Illinois and Thomas C Collins residing in the same county certify that we are acquainted with Isom Childress who has subscribed and sworn to the above declaration and that we believe he is to be sixty six years of age and that he is reputed and believed in the neighborhood to have been a soldier of the revolution and that we concur in that opinion.  Sworn to and subscribed this day and year aforesaid.    
                                                                  William Farley and Thomas C Collins
And the court do hereby declare their opinion after the investigation of the matter and after putting the ?? prescribed by the War Department that the above-named applicant was a revolutionary soldier and served as he states.  And the Court further certifies that it appears to them that William Farley who signed the preceding certificate is a clergyman resident in the County of Lawrence and State of Illinois and that Thomas C Collins who has also signed the same is a resident of the same and is a credible person and their statement is entitled to belief. 
                                                                   Wm Wilson

I. James M McLean, Clerk of the Circuit Court for the County of Lawrence and State of Illinois do hereby certify that the foregoing contains the original proceeding of the said Court in the matter of the application of Isom Childress for a pension. 
In testimony where of I have hereunto set my hand and seal of Office this 18th day of September 1832                                                      J M McLean, Clk

 Ed Note: Readers may recall that William Wilson, the Judge hearing Isom’s declaration, was the same judge who presided over the Elizabeth Reed trial. Wilson was appointed Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court on January 18, 1825, and served as such, until his retirement on December 4, 1848, making this the longest consecutive term, a chief justice has held in Illinois. Seven years before his retirement Supreme Court Justices were required to preside over Circuit Courts in the judicial circuit where they resided.  Living in Carmi, White County, placed Wilson in the 4th Judicial Circuit, that included Lawrence County which is how we had the Chief Justice hearing cases in our Circuit court. 

Lady readers: If you are related to the Benson, Helm, Cochran, and Childress families, you might be eligible to join the DAR. Send an inquiry to and I will forward it to the Regent for the Toussaint Dubois Chapter of the DAR. 

On Sunday, November 17, 2019, the newest Lawrence County Historical Society exhibition at the History Center on the Lawrenceville Square will open at 1:00 p.m.  Mark your calendars.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Berries and Boughs

The Society will once again be offering fresh evergreen “Berries and Boughs” swags for home decorating needs for the holidays. Made locally by Society members, these fresh boughs of local pine and cedar are accented with bunches of fresh holly berries.  A large all-weather red velvet bow adds the finishing touch.  Approximate size is 24 inches long by 18 inches wide.  The cost is $15.00 each.  

They will be available December 6, 2019.
Orders can be made now by calling 908-208-2372 or 618-240-2021 or personally at the History Center on Mondays 10am-3pm and at the Research Library on Monday, Wednesday or Friday mornings 9-12.  

Call and get your order in NOW.